Brain iron quantification in mild traumatic brain injury: a magnetic field correlation study

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. Nov-Dec 2011;32(10):1851-6. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A2637. Epub 2011 Sep 1.


Background and purpose: Experimental studies have suggested a role for iron accumulation in the pathology of TBI. Magnetic field correlation MR imaging is sensitive to the presence of non-heme iron. The aims of this study are to 1) assess the presence, if any, and the extent of iron deposition in the deep gray matter and regional white matter of patients with mTBI by using MFC MR imaging; and 2) investigate the association of regional brain iron deposition with cognitive and behavioral performance of patients with mTBI.

Materials and methods: We prospectively enrolled 28 patients with mTBI. Eighteen healthy subjects served as controls. The subjects were administered the Stroop color word test, the Verbal Fluency Task, and the Post-Concussion Symptoms Scale. The MR imaging protocol (on a 3T imager) consisted of conventional brain imaging and MFC sequences. After the calculation of parametric maps, MFC was measured by using a region of interest approach. MFC values across groups were compared by using analysis of covariance, and the relationship of MFC values and neuropsychological tests were evaluated by using Spearman correlations.

Results: Compared with controls, patients with mTBI demonstrated significant higher MFC values in the globus pallidus (P = .002) and in the thalamus (P = .036). In patients with mTBI, Stroop test scores were associated with the MFC value in frontal white matter (r = -0.38, P = .043).

Conclusions: MFC values were significantly elevated in the thalamus and globus pallidus of patients with mTBI, suggesting increased accumulation of iron. This supports the hypothesis that deep gray matter is a site of injury in mTBI and suggests a possible role for iron accumulation in the pathophysiological events after mTBI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Injuries / metabolism*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iron / analysis*
  • Magnetic Fields
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Magnetometry / methods*
  • Male
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Iron